I think I’m a nice person. I keep myself to myself. My street is similarly quiet and considerate, too, if you discount that outdoor evening disco thing last summer I’m hoping was a one-off.
But if I offer up just seven little words, you will understand immediately why this picture of privacy and peace has become one of painful, depressing intrusion. Put simply, they’ve got the builders in next door.
We live in a semi, and the horror is happening on the attached side. I shan’t recount every choking, polluting bonfire, noisy rooftile thrown from height onto concrete, or mention (much) the monotonous, mindless radio noise sound-tracking the sawing and cement-mixing.
And I’m aware there are people in the world going through a lot more horrific things than me, right now. Still, like it is for a lot of us, my home is my haven – and these days, also my office, where I have to, y’know, concentrate occasionally if I want to pay bills and eat.
Unfortunately, it’s been a year where I’ve found myself concentrating too much on ways builders might themselves consider the feelings and concerns of the communities they descend upon, rather than swaggering in like a bunch of thugs.
I’m not talking here about the actual, physical work so much. The angle-grinders, sledgehammers and drills are awful but unavoidable. It’s the conduct – the manners – of the men (and they always are, unfortunately) wielding them. It’s the attitude.
Guys, you’re only visitors where other people live. If you behave like guests in our street, we’ll treat you like guests and might even make you the odd cuppa.
Failing that, what if they were some kind of charter builders had to sign up to addressing their negative, often intimidating impact, on top of the (flimsy) planning regulations?
Should it help, yes, I’ve devised one. Aptly enough, it’s only a work in progress, but:
1. No radios. There’s a general impression that the operation of radios is the only thing actually taught in building ‘school’.
2. Do nothing before 8am. Just don’t.
3. Nothing on bank holidays or weekends, either – and if the rules say you can, you still shouldn’t.
4. Don’t throw thing from roof-height, even for ‘fun’.
5. Stop shouting.
6. And stop swearing – there are children around.
7. Don’t park across neighbours’ drives. It’s never okay.
8. Be polite. Be professional, basically.
9. Life’s tough, don’t make it worse.
10. Just grow up.
I’d love to get any responsible builders’ take on this one. There must be at least a few who accept the low opinion their industry is rightly held in by so many of the quiet, considerate types I talk to. Maybe they can’t get heard ABOVE THE RADIO YOU’RE STILL PLAYING.